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At the Back of the Black Man's Mind, by Richard Edward Dennett, [1906], at



Some Bini Fetishes or Jujus.-EMATON. -The Phallic Pillar, God and the Devil. - Marriage Customs.-Secret Societies.

THE Bini call a wizard AZE but the Jakri word is OLOTCHO which is not very different from the word used by the BAVILI, i.e., NDOTCHI. A person accused of witchcraft is given the bark of the INYI pounded up together with water. If the accused vomits he is considered innocent, if he does not the poison generally kills him, and his guilt is thus proved.

The drum language does not appear to exist much north of Old Calabar, and the Bini will tell me nothing about it.

When the OBA makes father (Ezimi) the big thick looking drum beaten in the father's house is called EKUN ALWERA.

Then the musicians carry:-

Two long drums

called IDAN

tum tum

One small     "

    "   UKE

short drum like
ours in shape.

One medium     "

    "   IGEGAN

"     "

One large     "

    "   IMIGAN

"     "

Road jujus are called MWIHEYO.

Cowries represent the


A big stone  "      "


Pebbles        "      "


A spoilt gun  "      "

OGUN (war)


And when the people hear or notice that a road has a MWIHEYO put on it they talk of the road as ULAWMA.

Osun are Jujus to which certain Doctors or Obos are attached.

Some times as you are marching you will notice a bunch of leaves tied together fastened to a branch of a tree, this they call ESHU SHU, which might be translated little devil, and may be the origin of the word JUJU used here much as the word fetish is south of the equator.

A fence made of Kola saplings, planted four or five feet apart, tied together with native string, screens a tree with a

OMEY, entrance to AROVIA, a grove sacred to OVIA, Similar to MABILI in the Congo, with chalk marks as above in half circle on the ground in front of entrance.

piece of cloth wrapt round it, and bottles, wood, and cones of chalk at its root is called EKEJI.

OMEHU is a tree found near most villages with a collection of ant-hills heaped about its roots. They say this is to make women bear children.

At IGUSALA there is a double IKHIMI tree growing behind a nicely kept fence, with a strip of cloth round it. Between its buttresses are a pot of water, a drinking cup, shells, the bark of a tree, AWAWA (spoon bill) and goats' heads, and nearly round its base are seats for people to sit upon. While under a little shed, upon a wooden grill, rest great lumps of EKWHA (a kind of pudding made of the bean-like seeds of a tree) being smoked by a fire underneath them.

In the forest between ADENYOBA and ITE is a sacred stone called OKUTA.

On the Sapoba road there is a tree with the usual mound of earth and cowries in front of it, planted they say to mark the place where the top of Ezomo's ladder fell. The story goes that this great war chief heard it thunder and wanted to know what enemy of the Oba's it was who evidently wished to fight him, so he built a ladder to reac:h up to the heavens. When he and all his people were on the ladder and just

OMEHU, ant-hills placed at foot of tree near any village.

getting at the home of thunder, it gave way, and the top end of it fell where the tree is growing, about three miles from Ezomo's house.

Near to these sacred spots you will often find pots of water and cups, or yams or bananas, with the price in cowries against the cup or the food to be sold. I have never known these silent markets abused.

The people swear by licking and touching stones, iron, cowries, bits of twisted rope, and the crushed dried leaves of a plant, asking these things to kill them if they are not telling the truth. These swear jujus are called EKHWAÏ, and there is generally an EKHWAÏ in connection with an CISUN.

The only fetishes into which nails, etc., are driven which the writer has noticed are two very old ones preserved in the temple to OLUKUN.[1]

The EMATON (the thing you keep on digging) is a very important CISUN among the BINI, quite a number were found stuck into the ground near to the King's palace.

The EMATON (Pl. XVII) is an iron staff ornamented with two figures of the chameleon, the signs of wisdom, one just above and one below four leaf-like figures pointing downwards representing AJA, or that knowledge of medicines and lore supposed to be taught to man by the fairies who take certain people into the bush for this purpose. Then opposed to the AJA at the top of the staff is a bunch of figures surmounted by the representation of a horse and a bird.

This bird they call the AKIAMAWLO, which translated means-There existed previously the continued state of the living thou and him.

The figure of the horse bearing the bird stretches across the circle of figures to points between the two prongs of two figures. They call this ESIN (the act of exposing to sight). The figure marked 3 on the sketch represents the two tail feathers of the bird called ARIOKPA (the first one who sees). This bird is also called IFE or love, and IFE is, as you know, a town in Yoruba land, from which all people are said to have Come. (Can this mean that the BINI believe themselves to be the children of the spirit of light and love?)

The above, like Mawalala, stand outside the formula.

Category 1. Figure 8 is meant to represent that semicircular knife which is used to separate the skin from the body of the yam and is called ELULIMA, the act of having to keep on boring (the Bavili look upon the sky as solid, and so do the Bini, in the sense that a roof is solid). This semicircular knife, then, conveys the idea of " the heavens."

Category 2. Figure 7 represents the flat round hoe with which they hoe the earth, and they call this figure EGWE, the act of being.

[1. See OLUKUN.]

Category 3. Figure 10 represents the axe OGWANA (the relative in law of OGUN, the Yoruba "power" presiding over implements of war and hunting). The story says that an old lady who would cut wood on their first day (=Sunday) was banished to the moon. OGUN =blacksmith who by the help of fire makes his implements.

Category 4. Figure 9 represents the machet called IKHU (the act of cutting up the dead wood, which is a motion).

Category 5. Figure 5 represents the flat (fish-knife-like) knife that the Oba of Benin used to carry in one hand. It was held upwards towards the heavens when the King made a prayer of supplication, and is called EBEN, connected with the word EBAW, sacrifice or offering, and the Dove. I am not at present able to associate this knife with harvest.

Category 6. Figure 6 represents the knife used by the Oba to slay men or animals for sacrifice, and it is called ADA (one who propagates) This certainly entails suffering. And finally we come to the two-pronged figure joined as it were to IFE, which is called ELELI (the witness who speaks).

Thus was the Oba as God's representative on earth reminded of his descent from God through IFE, and so did the EMATON convey to all who chose to look at it that man is of spirit, body, and mind, and that there are three distinct kinds of knowledge, i.e. that which he receives directly from God, that which he obtains from his animal nature, and that which he is taught by the elf AJA.


At a town called EBIYAWMALO, which I visited in company with Dr. A. G. Christian, we noticed a pillar (PI. XVIII) in

Pillar, or IKO, in front of meeting-house at EBIYAWMALO.

front of the native Court-house, and the chief told us that it was called IKO (a meeting).

Not far from here we noticed a hollow pillar under a small shed, and the chief of the place called that IKO also. This

A hollow clay pillar, IKO, at OKPWEBO, with three Achatena shells inserted in it.

pillar was of red sun-dried mud, and three shells were fixed in the mud on the side of the pillar exposed to our view.

Then at ADENYOBA near the OVIA river there is an altar

Pillar, called OYISA, and altar with IKHURE sticks and pot of water on it at ADENYOBA.

to OYISA placed under a shed, by the side of which is an ornamented whitewashed pillar or IKO.

In the bush near to the village called OVA there is a stunted

Squat pillar at OVA, called ADAMBI, said to be female.

squat kind of pillar which they call ADAMBI and described as a woman "Juju."

Then at OWO, in the Oba's Palace yard, I noticed a pillar, and the king called it OROBALE (which might be translated the husbands' ward).

Then, proceeding farther away from the sea into the KUKURUKU country at ISULE, the Conservator and self noticed a triune pillar under a little shed, the figures being back to back and those of two males and a female. This the Chief called BABATCHIGIDDI (or earthenware image of the father).

But shortly after this we entered the village of IÄIU, and. on the stone plateau near to the chiefs house our attention was drawn to three grass-capped figures (Pl. XVIIIb), two being of solid clay, while the third was simply formed of two upright sticks with a grass cap on it. These figures the chief called ESHI, which was interpreted as being equivalent to the Bini word Esu or ESHU (Devil). On the other hand, three fig-trees growing out of platforms of loose stones collected together close to these figures they called OYISA or God.

At ATEYI there is a figure standing on a platform outside a

A small wooden figure and two pieces of ironstone outside wall of house on a clay platform with a board with pieces of iron driven into it in front of it. The figure is called ESHU, and represents the Devil.

house, by the side of which are two pieces of ironstone, and they called this figure ESHU.

Then all juju houses have an altar to ESU outside, while those whose houses own the "Juju" AWLOMILA (a small basin containing the nut IVIAWNOMILA in a piece of cloth) may also have an altar to ESU outside their houses.

They say that OYISA is a trinity composed Of OYISA or


the King of us all on earth.


who made us to be.


the queenly mortar of being.

And that he had a son called ESU, or ESHU who is also a trinity composed of


the Devil connected with mystery.


the teacher.


the King or Queen of Death.

When OSALUBWA was making man he left him in an unfinished state: Esu came along and finished him according to his ideas. OSALUBWA returned, and was much annoyed, and banished Esu to the east, where the Sun comes from (ANIMINIHIA MIVI).

From this it will be noted that while trees symbolise the triune God the Creator, the pillars represent the so-called Devil or procreator in three parts also.


There appear to be two kinds of marriages among the Bini.

Among the upper classes the children are betrothed by their parents from infancy. The present may be a nominal one, such as four kolas, three cowries, and some palm wine, or it may be more.

The man is supposed to keep on giving the child betrothed to him presents until she is grown up; he also makes her parents gifts. The seduction of such a betrothed girl is heavily punished. On the other hand, among the poor the girl is not necessarily betrothed, and a man may seduce her without legal punishment.

The man may refuse to marry his betrothed, and then he

[1. =Ogie x Oyisa x Lugimaiyi

royal self     god       earth.]

has the right to give her in marriage to anyone, unless she is of noble family, when she can only be given to a free man.

The girl may not refuse to marry the man to whom she is betrothed, or his chosen representative; but the father may at any time refuse to give his daughter to her betrothed, when he has to refund to him all the presents the would-be husband has given to her and her parents.

When his wife conceives the husband gives her a cock to sacrifice.

The son marries his deceased father's wives, who have not borne children to him.

After the birth of a child, the father gives the mother another name; the child also will give her mother a name, a friend will also name her, and so one often hears a person spoken of by two or three names.

Very few women in this country are true to their husbands, many of them having at least one lover. When a child is born the woman does not declare who its father is until her husband is dead. Many women live openly with their lovers; the great majority of cases in court are for return of wife, and many women prefer to go to prison than to return to their legal husbands.

Often on the roads one passes a small tree planted by the side of the road, near where are chalk marks and a mound of earth, cowries, yams, and plaintains. This tree has been planted in memory of the fact that some woman or other has brought forth a child on that spot.


The object that most of the secret societies round about Benin seem to have had at heart was to check the despotism of the rulers of the people, but often the ruler himself became a member of the society, and thus as its leader secured its services in furthering his own despotic ideas.

The Beni call their society IGWOMORI, and it is said that while still a prince the late OBA OVERAMI became a member of it. The first crime this society committed was on the death of OBA ADOLO and crowning of OVERAMI, and, at the latter's suggestion, to execute all the late ADOLO'S councillors. OVERAMI then placed many of the IGWOMORI, sons of the lately executed councillors, in their fathers' place.

The secret society of the ISHAN people played a great part in defending the Benin City chief ABOHON and other refugees after the British had taken Benin City in 1897-8.

There are secret societies at OWOO and AKWE.

The SOBO Society is called OTRADA, that at IFON, OTU, while we have only just had a sad experience of the influence of the EKEMEKU, or the Silent Ones, in the hinterland of ASABA.

In an interesting article, dated May 13, in the West African Mail, Mr. Hughes, an earnest student of African customs, writes:

"The EKEMEKU Society has for long been in existence. The aim and idea of its establishment was-

"1st. To settle any tribal differences amicably.

"2nd. To uphold the law and institution of their countries according to rights of usage.

"3rd. To prevent any oppression by their kings and chiefs.

"Of late the EKEMEKU Society has become composed for the most part of the younger and more lawless elements, who hold their meetings at night, who work by secret methods, and who are a continual source of terror to the more peaceful natives, whom they compel by threats of death to contribute to their society."

On page 65 of Great Benin, Mr. C. Punch is made to say:

"I should imagine the Bini would have the ORO fetish, etc. The Bini call this whip ELIMIDU, and it was given to the OKIASON (OKERISON) by the OBA. From the season IHAW to IGWE, men desirous of obtaining a title roamed about armed with an iron instrument, by means of which they endeavoured to kill seven or fourteen people. As witness of their prowess they presented the OBA with the dried breasts of the women and the dried penis of the men they had killed. With these parts of the slain men and women the OBA is said to have made certain medicine for fetish purposes. To give these "braves" a fair chance to accomplish their task, the OBA made the chiefs bring all their people to dance in his compound every night. The "braves" ran a great chance of being killed themselves, for it was known that they were about, and naturally the people kept their eyes open. Should one of these aspirers to the rank of nobility be killed by the man attacked, the latter took possession of his dried trophies, and continued the process of killing on his own account.

If a person attacked by one of these people had the presence of mind to cry out the words OGED' EGBOMA AYAN AKPWOKA WAW GAPOKAI (something to the effect that plantains do not kill a man in the day time) it was a matter of honour not to kill him.

The noise of chain and brass anklets as a woman ran away was also a life-saving sign.

When these men had presented the OBA with these parts of seven or fourteen persons the OBA gave them the coral necklace, bracelets, and anklets as a sign that they had become OKIASON; IDUN OHOGBI was their chief, and they lived in OBAYAGBON's quarter.

Next: Chapter 20. More Customs